Home > Escape (Getaway #3)(6)

Escape (Getaway #3)(6)
Author: Jay Crownover


“Why are you so sad Uncle Lane?” She twirled a curl around her finger and kicked her sandy feet in the air. “You’re never the sad one. That’s always Daddy.”

Perceptive little shit. God, I loved her something fierce. I gave her a grin and dragged my finger down her nose. “What’s Uncle Cy?”

She giggled and stuck her tongue out at me. “He’s the mean one, and you’re the nice one. You’re the funny one who makes everybody laugh, but not right now. You haven’t laughed once since you got here. I don’t like it.” Her mouth contorted to a very practiced pout. Very rarely did she not get her way when she pulled that expression.

I sighed and threw myself onto my back, blinking up at the sky through my sunglasses. “Hasn’t been much to laugh about lately, Goldilocks. Your Uncle Lane wants something he can’t have, and that’s no fun.”

The little girl crawled on top of me dragging sand and sea with her. She ended up sitting in the center of my chest, her hands clasping my cheeks as she stared intently down at me. “Did you ask for it again?” I tried not to wince as her knees dug into the still healing bullet wound on my side. It hurt almost as much as my broken heart.

I pushed my sunglasses up to the top of my head and tickled her sides making her squeal and roll off of me. “What are you talking about, little bit?”

She held her sides as she laughed and shook her mop of crazy hair out. “When Daddy tells me I can’t have something, I hate it. Especially if it’s something I really, really want.” She lifted her tiny blonde eyebrows up and batted her long, golden lashes at me with exaggerated sweetness. “But sometimes if I wait long enough and plan for just the right time, if I ask him again he says yes, and I get it anyway. And sometimes if I ask Em instead of Daddy, she says yes even though he already said no. So, if you really, really want something you shouldn’t stop asking for it.”

I sighed and climbed to my feet so we could start to shake the sand off everything and get cleaned up. It would have been smart to bring a pair of trunks to change into, but the only shoes I had were my boots, and that wasn’t a look I was brave enough to sport, even a million miles away from home. I was going to take Daye out to dinner and then for ice cream to ensure we didn’t interrupt whatever Sutton and Em were up to in that big empty house. “I don’t think that works when what you want belongs to someone else. I think you just have to let them have it and realize it was never meant to be yours. We can’t always get what we want, little bit, even when you flash those big puppy dog eyes and flutter your pretty lashes.”

She huffed a little sound of aggravation and let me rub her down and put her dry shoes back on. She held my hand tightly in hers as we made our way back to the truck. She chattered on about a girl in her class who wanted a new horse and how she had gotten Sutton to offer to teach her new friend how to ride in case her dream came true. She told me that I was the best and that I should always get whatever it was that I wanted because she loved me and wanted me to be happy. It was so sweet and innocent, the way she loved. It made my chest tighten. I refused to tell her that when your happiness was irrevocably tied to another person, you weren’t always in the driver’s seat on the road to your happy ever after. She had a lifetime to learn about all the ways love could hurt, and many years before she had to find that out the hard way.

I was invested in her bubbly chatter, so relieved that everything that had happened back at the ranch wasn’t playing over and over like a horror movie I couldn’t turn off, that I didn’t notice the woman leaning against the front of my truck watching us. I didn’t see the way her dark eyes tracked us or the single tear that slid down her cheek.

Daye had no such problem recognizing we were being watched and were under intense scrutiny. She halted mid-sentence, pulled to a stop, and then let out a scream of delight so loud it sent a flock of gulls angrily into flight. She tugged at the hand I was holding too tightly, keeping her from pulling free and running.

“Daye, what in the heck? What are you doing?” My brother would skin me alive if I let her loose. She’d been through enough; there was no way she was getting hurt or worse on my watch. It burned deep in my chest, the ache where the bullet had shattered my ribs. My ribs throbbed as memories of what happened to her the last time I took care of her darkened our peaceful afternoon. I wouldn’t let my mind wander back there and I sure as hell wasn’t going to let her get hurt as she tried to bolt from my grip.

She pulled frantically on my hand, her pink, glittery canvas shoes digging into the sand deep enough to gouge out holes. “It’s Brynn! Let go! I want to say hi and hug her. Brynn! Did you bring me a present? I missed you!” Every single word was shouted across the sand louder than the one that came before it.

I let her little hand drop from mine only because my body went numb. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, so I pressed my fingers to my eyes and blinked rapidly against the sting.

Sure enough, there was a familiar figure bending down to meet Daye’s unchecked and enthusiastic greeting. I knew that hair colored with fire and flames anywhere. I dreamed about those midnight eyes and jerked off to the thought of those endless legs wrapped around me when I was alone in the dark. I would know her anywhere, even here, where she shouldn’t be.

Her long hair was caught up in a messy bun on the top of her head, but the light breeze was doing a good job picking it apart. Her hair looked like a halo of fire flickering around her head, and she had a determined slant to her lush mouth as I approached much slower than Daye had.

I shoved my hands into the pockets of the wet and sandy jeans I was wearing, wishing I had my Stetson on so I could hide under the brim. It had been weeks since I last saw her and somehow, she looked completely different. One thing hadn’t changed though; her all-important ring finger was still naked and unadorned. I couldn’t stop my heart from jumping in excitement at the sight, relief and something so much bigger than that filled my throat and made breathing difficult.

“Brynn. What are you doing here?” The question came out sounding far harsher than I had meant. I wanted to ask her about the proposal, about Jack, but I didn’t think I could stand to hear her answers. I was regretting not letting Emrys break the news to me when she’d tried. I had nowhere left to run.

The stunning woman squeezed the little girl who was trapped in her arms and looked at me unwaveringly over the top of her head. The corner of her mouth kicked up into a familiar grin, but I could see the way her fingers shook, and how her lower lip trembled as she answered, “I came to bring you home, Lane. The ranch needs you. Your brother needs you. Webb needs someone to keep him in line and show him what he needs to know. Leo misses you. Things aren’t the same with you gone. Nothing has felt right since the moment you left.”

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